Director Ken Loach’s concern for the plight of the working man takes a comic turn in this gritty film starring Robert Carlyle as Stevie, a young Scotsman who finds a construction job in the north of London turning an old hospital into luxury condos. Like most of the largely non-English crew, he’s forced to live in an abandoned building whose doors can be opened only with a crowbar. Despite their differences, the laborers are bound by the difficulty of their work and their shared hatred of the bosses and contractors who constantly threaten to fire them and endanger their lives by cutting corners on safety. Loach’s camera follows the workers unobtrusively as they relax in the squats and pubs, revealing, in their gallows humour, the fatalism of men who feel they’ve been forgotten by the society they inhabit.
Unlike virtually all his contemporaries, Ken Loach has never succumbed to the siren call of Hollywood, and it’s virtually impossible to imagine his particular brand of British socialist realism translating well to that context. After studying law at St. Peter’s College, Oxford, he branched out into the theater, performing with a touring repertory company. This led to television, where in alliance with producer ‘Tony Garnett’ he produced a series of docudramas, most notably the devastating “Cathy Come Home” episode of “The Wednesday Play” (1964), whose impact was so massive that it led directly to a change in the homeless laws. He made his feature debut Poor Cow (1967) the following year, and with “Kes”, he produced what is now acclaimed as one of the finest films ever made in Britain. However, the following two decades saw his career in the doldrums with his films poorly distributed (despite the obvious quality of work such as The Gamekeeper (1968) (TV) and Looks and Smiles (1981… read more